I Still Like the Bible
When I was a kid I knew that I loved the Bible. It was the most important book in existence! You quoted it in your AIM away message to signal to other Christians. You listed it as one of your favorite books on Facebook to signal to other Christians. I don't know how kids do that kind of thing nowadays. But at some point as a kid I realized I hadn't read through the Bible in its entirety, so I set out to accomplish that goal.
I had been reading through the book of Psalms, so I just continued. After wrapping around Revelation to Genesis, I finished up in Job. I read the Bible so much thereafter that I was the kid in youth group whom both kids and adults would regularly ask about passages from the Bible to cite. I still remember my embarrassment the one time I managed to fail to assist.
Did you know that a sponge is mentioned in the Bible? When was the last time you read from the Bible? I was thinking about the practice of lamentation while I was on Twitter, so I switched over to my browser and read the NRSV translation of Lamentations 1.
A lot has changed in the time from when I first read through the Bible to today. I don't have the naivety of a teenager in an evangelical church. I have been deeply connected to quite a few faith communities. I have learned that it is ok to read the Bible in different ways and that some of the ways I had learned from various communities were anywhere from carefully considered to crap.
I've even preached from the Bible dozens of times. I have earned a Master's of Divinity degree. I have translated many thousands of words from Biblical Hebrew or Koine Greek to English while keeping in mind the work of biblical scholars from all manner of backgrounds.
I still wonder how I managed to stay so connected to the Bible as a sacred text through the decades despite how much has changed regarding how I understand it. Going from a perspective of "I read the Bible" to one of "I've read translations of a collection of ancient sacred texts that are collectively called the Bible" has turned a lot of people away from the Bible for all manner of reasons, but I still like the thing.
What good is the Bible for someone like me who is no longer in evangelicalism? Well, for one thing the Bible has been around for a lot longer than evangelicalism, so if you still want it to be part of your life, it can be.
The challenge arises from the fact that my own reading of the Bible is inextricably tied to my memories of reading from it in the past. Sure, I've received important and essential context that I didn't have in the past; I've come to recognize many of the markers and failures of an evangelical ("literal" or "plain") reading; I've learned from people who lack some of visible privileges I have (go ahead, take a look at my author picture).
However, those old ways of reading it still sit with me like a tune that gets stuck in your head and they can easily warp my attempts at connecting with the Bible today. In the next post I plan to be less anticipatory and instead take a look at some of the creation stories in the Bible.
I'm a science nerd who fifteen years could give you all kinds of scientific explanations for Young Earth Creationism and who now is amazed by both the evolution of life and the things the biblical creation stories cared about. In future posts I may have a chance to discuss other broad biblical topics like what the changes in the laws of the people of God can tell us, how we can read texts as sacred, or why you don't have the soul you may think you have. If you thought the Bible's creation stories are limited to Genesis, definitely come back for my next post.